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Billie Piper's phone-hacking play wins critics' approval

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Jul 01, 2014 | 7:32am EDT

Singer-turned-actress Billie Piper won over theatre reviewers with her turn in topical new play Great Britain on Monday (30Jun14), with critics describing the phone hacking satire as "blessedly funny" and "bluntly entertaining". The comedy drama, by playwright Richard Bean, is based on real life British scandals including the phone-hacking trial and the controversy surrounding politicians' expenses, and it was rehearsed in secret before its opening at London's National Theatre. The opening night came a week after the phone-hacking trial verdicts caused a sensation in the U.K., and the topical subject matter was a hit with the critics. Reviewers were also full of praise for Piper's performance as loathsome social-climbing news editor Paige Britain, with Dominic Cavendish, of U.K. newspaper The Daily Telegraph, calling her turn "convincingly shallow and ruthless" and adding of the play, "(It is) a vitriolic, bluntly entertaining comedy that initially has the audience tickled pink with its levity, then finally blushing red with national shame." Michael Billington, in a four-out-of-five star review in Britain's The Guardian, also compliments Piper on doing "an excellent job" and hails Great Britain as "blessedly funny", writing, "It has the bracing quality of topicality and is written with real verve... I mean it as a compliment when I say his play has a tabloid energy and bravura." The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Dalton agrees, writing, "(The play) puts an agreeably lurid and highly amusing slant on current events," but the Daily Mail's Quentin Letts notes in a three-out-of-five critique, "The heaviness of the humour obscures much of the seriousness... The play is a bit of a mess in places." Britain's phone-hacking trial ended last week (ends29Jun14) with former News of the World boss Rebekah Brooks acquitted on all charges. Andy Coulson, another ex-editor of the now-defunct tabloid, was found guilty on a charge of conspiracy to intercept communications and is due to face a retrial on corruption charges alongside the publication's former royal editor Clive Goodman. Great Britain runs at the National Theatre until 23 August (14).

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